Why You Need Resilience

What makes a great athlete, or entrepreneur, or scholar, or spelling bee champ? Is there anything they have in common? Is there a trait they all share?

Angela Duckworth calls it Grit. I’ve always known it as resilience. Call it whatever makes the most sense to you, but you know what I’m talking about. It’s the ability to push through and do the work with a level head regardless of how things are going. It’s the ability to push yourself to make that next dial, or answer that email, or knock on that door regardless of your emotions, your percentage of quota, or activity for the day. Early in my career I would have good days where I was on fire, and bad days where everything sucked… but then I had days where it just didn’t seem to matter. I just did the work. I would get from A to B, and nothing (good or bad) was going to stop me.

You Can Build Up Resilience

Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Sharpening the axe represents training, and Chopping represents the actual work. Resilience is the inclination to get up and complete the task at hand. Grit is the part of you that knows, without saying it out loud, one way or another that tree is coming down.

So much of what separates a top-performing salesperson from an average one is indefinable and nuanced. It’s not just about the product or company, territories and timing, talent and training… there is something more. But when it comes to minimum levels of success, resilience is what separates the salesperson from unemployment. Personal resilience, the ability to do the work in any circumstance, is mandatory for any measure of success in sales.

This is the first episode in a five part miniseries that will help you do just that; develop a resilience (or grit) that will help you be more consistent and reliable. Building up resilience is easy if you start small, be consistent, and have a plan. In following episodes I’ll dive deep into things like motivation and the unconscious mind, but for now I want to simply introduce the idea that this is basically resistance training, like lifting weights. This kind of mental toughness can be trained into you. When one is working out any other muscle, putting pressure on it builds up strength. And just like doing to the gym once won’t make you buff, building up some resiliency is going to take time and discipline.

Discipline as a Tool for Building Resilience

When I first started in sales I remember hearing my manager tell the group that to be successful in sales, one needed to be disciplined. That immediately made me nervous, because I am a really big guy… not in a good way either. I’ve struggled with my weight since the fourth grade and as I record this I am just as overweight now as I was then. I’ve always connected my unhealthy habits to a lack of discipline, and there’s no getting around that, but self discipline with food is not the only measure of discipline.

I don’t do drugs, I’m a reliable, loving father and husband. I show up early to my meetings and I don’t miss my deadlines. I have a process for prospecting, selling, and developing referral partners that I apply relentlessly. So what if I struggle to put down the burrito. There is lots of evidence that I am a man of consistency and discipline. I’m not perfect by any measure, but since when was that a reasonable requirement for success?


Step one of building some resilience is to apply some discipline to your life. Even if you consider yourself to be a disciplined person, I want to you stretch yourself this week and find something in your professional life that can use a little resistance training. I recommend it be something small, but inconvenient. Think of that one habit, or process that you don’t do because it just doesn’t fit into your current routine. Maybe it’s sending a summary email at the end of all your meetings this week. Maybe it’s staying 15 minutes after you normally clock out to update your CRM. Maybe it’s checking in with that person on your team that you know probably made more calls than you today.

Whatever that thing is, I challenge you to do it every day this week and see how it feels to be consistent. You might be surprised how much momentum you can pick up with a small change. I’ll see you next week for episode two.

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